Women of menopausal age often view hot flashes (also known as night sweats) as one of the most troublesome symptoms they gain as their menstrual periods stop. Many supposed treatments for hot flashes range from the scientific to old wives’ tales. Research has finally confirmed what experts say works (or doesn’t work) to control these menopause symptoms.
“Hot flashes are triggered by a drop in the female hormone estrogen,” says McLeod Gynecologist Gary Emerson, M.D. “Normally, this heat-releasing mechanism – your heart pumps faster, brain blood flow lessens, blood vessels in your skin enlarge and your sweat glands release perspiration to cool you off – keeps you cool in the summer. But, a drop in estrogen confuses your brain’s response.”
The results of your brain’s reaction: sudden sensations of heat in your face, head and chest. Then, perspiration (sometimes chills) and a red flushing of your skin.
For years, conventional wisdom said that hot flashes lasted 6 to 24 months. Findings from a 2015 study reported findings that hot flashes could last for about 7 years and even up to 11 years.
There are some practical steps that women can take to quiet these hot flashes and night sweats:
In 2015, the North American Menopause Society assembled an expert panel to review the many reputed treatments for hot flashes, look at the scientific evidence, and rank them into 3 categories. A summary of their findings includes:
SOLID EVIDENCE SUPPORTS –
RECOMMENDED WITH CAUTION (or what sort of works) includes:
NOT RECOMMENDED. The panel looked at a number of potential therapies and decided they did not work consistently or sufficiently:
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Certainly, if you smoke, you should quit for hot flashes and a long list of health reasons. Losing up to 5 to 10% of your weight can help control hot flashes, prevent type 2 diabetes and breast cancer.
Before you undertake any of the possible treatments for hot flashes, talk with your Gynecologist. He or she will have the latest information and experience, based on their work with other patients.
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Sources include: McLeod Health, JAMA Internal Medicine, Maturitas, North American Menopause Society, Menopause Journal, Journal of Physiology